World Design Projects seeking new connections

Sydelle Willow Smith

Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana focuses on WDC projects contributing to positive change.

Over the past two weeks I have been greatly inspired by the number of World Design Capital projects that are actively encouraging collaboration to achieve positive social and economic change, writes Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana.

In my last column I described Cape Town’s World Design Capital designation as an opportunity to foster greater collaboration in our city, and to bridge divides. I noted that we still have time to make our World Design Capital year really count – to co-create the kind of city we all want – by stepping out of our silos and comfort zones and seeking out new connections.

Since writing those words, I have been deeply saddened by the untimely passing of Professor Russel Botman, Rector of the University of Stellenbosch and Chairperson of Cape Town Design, the implementing organisation for World Design Capital 2014.  A forward-thinking and humble leader, Botman was a friend and an inspiration to me, and I would like to dedicate this column to his memory. His legacy will endure long after 2014, not least of all through the many World Design Capital projects that are transforming lives throughout our city.

The Better Living Challenge (#WDC204), a competition that called on local designers and innovators to come up with affordable green ideas to improve low-cost living is one example of a WDC project encouraging collaboration to achieve positive change. Part of the Western Cape Government’s 110% Green initiative, which encourages organisations to commit to the Green Economy, the Better Living Challenge is being managed by the Cape Craft and Design Institute, with 47 experts from a wide range of sectors volunteering their time and energy to help with the intensive selection process.

A number of Better Living Challenge co-design workshops were held in the run-up to the closing date, including one in Khayelitsha in May, where designers engaged with community members over two days to grapple with problems and jointly come up with creative ideas and solutions. The competition attracted 130 entries, and finalists will be showcased at an exhibition in October. Members of the public will be invited to add their vote to the overall scoring of the competition winners. I am looking forward to seeing the creative ideas that will be presented, and I hope that many Capetonians will take the time to cast their vote for a design that could transform lives. Importantly, winning projects will receive the support needed to take their ideas to market.

The past two weeks also saw the launch of one of the Cape Town Partnership’s nine World Design Capital projects, the Creative Cape Town App (#WDC284).  We believe that creativity is a core aspect of Cape Town’s identity – both in an economic sense, and as something that defines the personality of our city; the tone of our street life, fashion, music and food. It engages our youth, has the potential to provide solutions to some of our most pressing social challenges, and inspires locals and visitors alike.

Our Creative Cape Town programme was established in 2006 to help unlock the potential of the creative economy, and to ensure that Cape Town continues to evolve as a creative capital and centre of knowledge and innovation.  Much of our activity has focused on physically connecting Cape Town’s creative community via networking events, or through our monthly newsletter and publications. The Creative Cape Town App project came about when we were considering ways in which to map the vibrant creative industries of our city – both during 2014 and, more importantly, as a legacy project.  At that time we recognised the need to have better insight into the economic trends at play in the local creative industries.

By devising an app that maps and connects the creative landscape of Cape Town, we hope to plug the gap between opportunity and talent. Developed in partnership with local agency Domino Digital, the Creative Cape Town app allows users to access details (including the geographical location) of businesses and individual service providers spanning the breadth of the local creative sector. Creative businesses and individuals in Cape Town (and into the Western Cape) are able to upload their portfolios, services and events to the app for free, creating instant visibility and connectivity.

The free-to-download IOS app (Android is coming soon) connects creatives to clients and to each other – whilst helping the broader public access creative events and industries. It allows users to search for creative businesses, suppliers and learning centres, by list or geographically – quickly and simply. It also offers visitors to Cape Town – whether business people or cultural tourists – a quick overview of Cape Town’s rich creative offering. I strongly encourage creative businesses, large and small, to go to and list themselves on the directory for free. We really want to see Cape Town’s creatives bring the tool to life, and we’re eager to improve it and add features in response to feedback.

This week saw the launch of another exciting World Design Capital 2014 initiative, Department of Design. A three-week-long event spearheaded by the Government of the Netherlands and implemented by Future Cape Town, it aims to encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing, especially around sustainable design and social transformation. The Provenance Auction House in Vrede Street, Gardens, has been transformed into a multi-functional, temporary Department of Design hub that will host free workshops, events and activities from 8 to 26 July 2014, with the theme #cocreateSA.

Leading Dutch design company, Studio Droog was enlisted to work with local artisans to create a spectacular pavilion, titled ‘FLOW’, using locally sourced scrap materials, from reclaimed wood and plastic crates to used carpet tiles and bicycle seats. The space also has a pop-up café and coffee shop that will be run by Khayelitsha-based Department of Coffee, Wi-Fi and a play space with educational toys. The full programme of events is available at

Next month will see OPEN DESIGN Cape Town returning to our city, from 13 to 23 August 2014, with the theme ‘Design is for Change’. A joint initiative of the City of Cape Town, Cape Town Design Network and Cape Craft and Design Institute, OPEN DESIGN is an annual festival that aims to create an accessible platform to showcase how design and design thinking can positively impact our lives. With collaboration at its core, many of the events on the OPEN DESIGN programme are crowd-sourced and can be loaded via their website

And finally, next Friday 18th July would have been Madiba’s 96th birthday.

I went onto the Mandela Day website for inspiration on how I can make an impact with my 67 minutes. It was amazing to see the many creative ways people are investing their time and energy to make a difference. The website features these simple yet profound words from Mandela: ‘It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it’. I am going to remember that.

Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana

This article first appeared in the Cape Times as part of a series titled My Urban Heart by Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana

Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana is CEO of the Cape Town Partnership. Talk to her @darksjokolade

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